We've got a lot of what it takes to get along!
This is the tune (in Ginger Rogers' voice -- along with her completely creepy costume) that is running through my head today.
I've been impatiently waiting all summer for my honey to get to the 80% capped stage for awhile now. After what seems like an eternity, they were finally ready to harvest last week. Plus, the weather was nice, too, so I ordered a refractometer that someone had recommended and timed my harvest to coincide with my new toy's arrival.
|I didn't necessarily look for combs that were 100% full. |
This one is only partially full, but at least 80% of the cells that have nectar are capped.
I did a bit of shuffling of honey combs between hives in order to take the most fully capped bars. In the end, I got 10 bars -- 8 of which came from Hippolyte, a first year package and the meanest bees I've ever met!
|A nice heavy bar of honey|
With the exception, of Austeja, who hasn't recovered from her swarm yet, the bees look to be in good shape heading into winter. I haven't decided what to do with Austeja, though. She's got some brood, but almost no bees and only 2 bars of capped honey. My choices at this point are:
- Let her ride and see what happens, though I think winter will kill her, if I do.
- Take just the uncapped bars, which are pretty dehydrated, leave the capped honey, and hang some fondant.
- Take all the honey now and let her bees beg their way into the other hives.
Sorry there aren't photos of the honey collecting process itself. I was working alone and wearing gloves. But basically, after brushing the bees off the comb, I put it into an empty nuc and covered it with a towel. Unfortunately, one of the combs (actually two combs) from Hippolyte were a really challenge because they were completely crossed. No matter how many bees I brushed, more bees kept pouring out from between the combs. Ultimately, I had to take the comb with the bees up to the house. By that time most of them had decided they weren't in Kansas anymore and had ventured out from between the comb. One more brushing of all the combs finally did the trick.
|The crossed combs from Hippolyte|
Another issue I didn't completely think through was how heavy the comb would be once the nuc was full. My nuc was completely full of bars, and even though only 10 of them were full of honey, I almost couldn't lift it. Fortunately, my kid's bike caught my eye, and I used that to roll the nuc uphill to the house.
|The nuc I used to collect the bars. You can see my son's bike there.|
|Honey from one comb -- 4 cups, or about a liter for you metric people.|
This info is useful because I finally know how many bars I need to leave for winter. 50 lbs is the number I shoot for because Lazutin recommends that in his book. (He's outside of Moscow, Zone 4. I'm in Zone 5, so I figure if that works for him, it should be more than ample for me.) However, I haven't been sure exactly how many bars provided 50 lbs. I've been aiming for 15 bars because that's what Christy Hemenway in Maine recommends. I know her combs are smaller than mine, and her winter is worse, so again, 15 seemed like a good hedge. However, I now know that for my hives, I've been overestimating quite a bit. At 4.5 lbs per bar, 50 lbs works out to about 11 bars. In any case, I still plan to leave about 13 bars per hive since this winter is supposed to be terrible. I'd rather under-harvest than over-harvest.
|Everyone gets a turn pressing honey.|
|Tasting honey. (BTW, my daughter came up with this "teenager outfit" on her own using some seamless headwraps.)|
In the last couple of years, I've crushed and strained some comb using a potato masher and sieve. However, the straining process always gave me a bit of a heartache because there was so much honey that just didn't drain off the crushed comb. It seemed so wasteful. Of course, the bees got to clean the crushed comb, but I hate watching them kill each other over the scraps. Also, I wanted the honey!!! So this year, I thought I'd try a fruit press, which worked pretty well, but I'll write another post about that later.
|Some more help. BTW, I've learned a useful lesson. When kids are involved, I need to cover the ENTIRE floor.|
Unfortunately, the refractometer didn't come when it was expected. Apparently, Amazon 2-day shipping means it arrives in 2 days from the day the order was fulfilled. However, it can take a week to fulfill the order. Because I agonize over little things, I didn't want to bottle the honey before testing it, knowing that there was some uncapped honey mixed in. So I stored it in my honey bucket until the refractometer arrived.
Just in case the honey was too wet, I modified a trick that I picked up on FaceBook. I took a few boxes of Arm & Hammer Fridge & Freezer boxes of baking soda. Then I taped up all the edges and shook the boxes to make sure no baking soda could escape. The boxes went into a strainer that got placed that on the bucket. I covered it all with a lid and set a bucket of wheat on top of it all to keep it airtight. There was no need to worry, though. The refractometer arrived, and the moisture content tested a tiny bit under 17%. (Capped honey is about 17%-18% moisture. Bottled honey should be under 21% to ensure that it doesn't spoil.)
|I didn't know how many boxes to use. |
The guy used only one box, but he only had a tiny pot of honey.
|Thought it was funny that the wheat bucket has the Honeyville logo on it.|
That's where I want to live, though -- In Honeyville.
So here is a picture of most of my haul. There are a couple of bottles that didn't make it into the photo, and some cut comb in the fridge. Overall, though, I'm quite pleased. I just may make it to spring.